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Can’t Build Startups Without Mistakes

Piotr Zaniewicz in

Blog/Can’t Build Startups Without Mistakes

Running a business means years of trial and error. RightHello has been going strong for almost 3 years now. There were plenty of errors along the way, but we dealt with them. Straightening out each of these 6 mistakes also gave us a valuable lesson to carry on with.

Over the first few years of running a startup, the founder sleeps like a baby. Wakes up every night and scream-cries.

I heard it back in August, talking to one of our Polish customers. It’s a hard statement to disagree with. A startup can feel like a trainwreck even when you’re going in the right direction, but you keep building nonetheless.

You can’t avoid mistakes when you’re running a startup. It can be a hard lesson to learn, but it may be the one of the most important ones. See what I did wrong over the last 3 years.

1. Procrastinating Time-Sensitive Decisions

It’s not good to take too long to make a decision. You think you’re being smart, analysing every outcome and looking for the best ROI. Over the time that you’re making a decision, your team becomes nervous, pressure rises, which can all lead to unnecessary anger.

Few months ago, I couldn’t decide whether to hire a new marketing specialist. It was classic decision paralysis. The issue was that we were hiring our first person with extensive experience (meaning higher costs). It took me a month to decide, which was also a month lost in terms of our own marketing departments’ growth.

Fear of rushing a decision is natural. But if time is passing by and you’re still not making a decision – you’re starting to become a bottleneck in your company’s growth. Since I realised it I’ve been considering the time that I can realistically take for each decision, without making work harder for anyone else.

2. Not Appreciating Available Knowledge – Mentors, Training Courses

In the beginning I was planning to build a purely in-house knowledge base for the team. We were also supposed to train everyone ourselves to avoid additional costs. Books + what’s available online was supposed to be enough for us.
It was one of our biggest mistakes. Marketing and Sales would’ve grown much quicker if we’d bet on solid training from the start.I realised it when an experienced manager from Group Pracuj (Polish HR collossus) increased our sales results from the very first month of joining our team.

Now I take more time to talk to people smarter than me, and organise solid in-house training sessions. It really simplifies the process of building our knowledge base, and we spend much less time thinking about solutions, simply using ready solutions to solve problems instead.

3. Avoiding The Issue Of Transparent In-House Communication

Another hugely important thing – communication. In times of fast growth, you sometimes forget that everyone has to know what they’re doing. You’ll survive if you realise your mistake in time, but it would be best to build transparent communication from the start.

At the beginning of this year we’ve increased hiring, growing from 30 to 60 people in a few months (right now it’s over 80 people). In-house communication deteriorated, but I kept pretending the problem wasn’t there. I didn’t wake up until our sales results started falling as well.

In improving our communication, it helped us the most to name and identify our problems. It helped us track what, and how, was communicated inside each team and between teams.

4. Marketing Must Be Stable

Sales need fuel, and leads are that fuel. If your clients’ decision making process is long (which is normal in case of complex B2B solutions), then a “pillow” of regularly incoming leads is essential.

The mistake in our case was implementing inbound marketing too late. It took us a year to start generating the same monthly amount of leads with inbound, as we always did with our outbound campaigns. It would’ve made our outbound experiments much less stressful, too.

5. Short-term Wins Aren’t More Important Than Long-term Plans

Short-term wins are satisfying, but you can’t treat them as more important than long-term plans. If you know something should take 6 months until completion, don’t try to speed up reality.

Look at short-term wins in the perspective of your startup’s long-term plans. Once I decided to import all CRM contacts into our newsletter. I just wanted to quickly raise our number of newsletter subscribers, but ended up annoying people from my network and potential customers.

The conclusion here being that you can’t speed things up. When I was constantly in a hurry, I would forget the reasons for building this company in the first place. My focus on quality would fade and I’d deliver too little value to my team and my customers.

Sum up

To sum up, I’ll say this – don’t be afraid to make mistakes and let your team make mistakes too. Fear of making a mistake is often what keep us from making the most important steps towards growth.

See also a video where I talk about: mistakes in a company’s development to avoid.

If you have questions or comments, email me at piotr@righthello.com.

Read also our other blog posts e.g. why B2B startup marketing doesn’t work.

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Piotr Zaniewicz

Founder and CEO at RightHello. Believes that the most important validation of business ideas is to find paying clients. That’s when you know you’re going in the right direction.